Spoiler Check: I have completed The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick and am up to Chapter 17 in Neuromancer by William Gibson
Well I did finish Philip K Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” and am now down to the last two hours of “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. You could say I have been on a little tour of the sci-fi classics.
While reading the former, I occasionally dipped into the web sources and kept coming across references to the themes explored by Dick, including “the confusion of true and false realities“. The Man in the High Castle was cited as a classic example. At the time of my previous post, it was not at all obvious how that theme applied. Sure, the story was set in an alternate universe, and the book-within-the-book (“The Grasshopper Lies Heavy”) brought in yet a third universe, but confusion between realities? Where?
Of course it all became clear in the last few chapters of the book. I was already sold on the book, but the whole “which reality is real” aspect took it onto a different plane (in more ways than one). A powerful, disturbing and provocative ending, just as the author intended.
Neuromancer has had its moments too but there again has proved annoying in equal measure. I’ve been trying to work out what is spoiling it for me and have tracked it down to two issues. The first is that it comes across as somewhat clichéd. Of course, that is entirely unfair since Neuromancer went a long way towards defining the Cyberpunk genre. The trouble is that I have already read other Cyberpunk or Cyberpunk-influenced novels such as When Gravity Fails (by George Alec Effinger), Snowcrash and The Diamond Age (both by Neal Stephenson) so the pseudo-computer-jargon-ridden prose, cyberspace virtual-reality world and Blade Runner cum Noir detective series atmosphere all come across as fairly stale tropes.
The other issue is that I chose to read Neuromancer as an audiobook. It is no reflection on the narrator, Jeff Harding. Rather, it’s that the book is just rather hard to consume in that format. There is so much invented jargon, use of made up or odd proper names (including many Japanese), and stylised turns of phrase used by the characters in dialogue that it just becomes really hard work to follow. And then there are the accents. Harding treats us to an extreme southern drawl when voicing the McCoy Pauley / Dixie Flatline construct which is not so bad, but the deep, slurred Rasta voices we get for the Zionites (Aerol and Maelcum) would have been barely comprehensible even without the over the top dialect. I do occasionally find myself dipping into the eBook just to make sure I have a basic handle on what is going on.
Still, the story is coming along nicely, progressing steadily towards the climax.